Featured Illustrator

Niels Blaesi

March 2020

Bern-based illustrator Niels Blaesi took the time to chat with us about working as a full-time illustrator, learning to enjoy the less interesting parts of work, and the benefits of balancing work and study.

Where did you study and what were some of your first jobs?

I studied Illustration at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts with an exchange semester at the HAW Hamburg. I got my first jobs for illustrations while studying, mainly from friends and acquaintances. Sometimes it was quite stressful to work on assignments outside of my course, but at the same time I was able to gain valuable experience for my studies and the time after.

What's the worst design job you’ve ever had and how did it make you a better designer?

I find it difficult to name the single worst job, but of course some commissions were not great. I think it's part of the learning process and as long as you don't fall into the same traps anymore, it can be considered a minor success. But I must admit that it took me a while to avoid these traps. My experience has shown me that when working with private clients I have to be very clear in communication, explanations and job descriptions. Time management can also be an issue, for private clients often work during their free time and sometimes they forget that it is working time for me. Even though I like my job! With professional employers, I have less of those problems; they know what they want, understand the process and I notice it's working time for them too.

Talk us through a typical working day include for you right now.

In summer I try to get up at 7 o'clock; in winter I usually don't get up that early. I am not really a morning person but I like the morning atmosphere and I know that’s when I work best. In addition I like to have a clear daily schedule. After my first coffee at home I go to the studio to have another coffee there. Next to this second coffee I read my emails and plan my day. Whenever possible I start with the work that needs the most concentration. For example drafts or paperwork like this interview, but also finishing illustrations before I send them off. I find the last decisions and strokes most difficult part in the process. Realizations and hard work I usually do in the afternoon. If time allows, I take an hour in the evening to push personal projects, make acquisitions or collect ideas. Recently my working days have gotten gradually longer, but I will try to compensate for this during quieter times.

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When working with private clients I have to be very clear in communication, explanations and job descriptions.

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What are some of the best and worst parts of your job, day-to-day?

This may sound a little trite. There are things – like administration or accounting – that I don't like doing so much. But I always tell myself that I can learn something from everything I do. When I look at it from that point of view, it’s much easier for me to have a go at it. And sometimes I even develop an interest in it.

What's the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

"Do your sketches and drafts on loose paper, not in sketchbooks." – It works for me: I feel much freer and can find unused ideas faster.

What's on the cards professionally and personally in the next 12 months?

To the end of last year I quit my part-time job. Now I want to make sure it stays that way and I’m looking forward to focus completely on Illustration.

Website: nielsblaesi.ch

Instagram: @nielsblaesi

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